Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A One Stack House

Today I wanted to share a quick organizing tip I hit on by accident: Have a one stack house.

What do I mean by that? Glad you asked!

A one stack house means that instead of having a stack of papers in the kitchen, the dining room, your bedroom, the office, and anywhere else that papers tend to collect, consolidate the various stacks into one stack. Literally go around and pick up the stacks-- and make just one.

Then designate a place for that one stack. For me it is my dresser. When the stack starts getting too high, that means it's time to weed it out. About once a week I go through my one stack and make piles of things to be filed, things to be dealt with immediately, and things to throw away. In doing this I stay (somewhat) organized.

I'm not sure why having just one stack makes it easier-- but it has for me. If everything is just in one place then it makes things feel more simple, more streamlined. Try it and see if it helps you!
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Monday, January 30, 2012

There's Time

This week I got an email that sent me into a tizzy about a deadline I thought I had. I ran around in a panic for a day, thinking to myself "There's just not time! There's just not time!"

The next day I got an email that reassured me. I'd misunderstood the expectation and discovered that there was, indeed, enough time to do what I needed to do. Panic wasn't necessary. And I'd wasted time on my tizzy. See the irony? I did.

As I processed all of this, I wondered why I never seem to trust that there will be enough time to get things done. Why I stress and worry and lament about my to-do list. As I processed things, this simple phrase echoed in my mind: There's time.

There's time to do the things we're supposed to do. Whether our calendar magically opens up to allow for extra time, or a friend takes our kids unexpectedly, or the deadline gets extended, or the work just simply goes faster than we thought it would, things get done. There's time. Yet I tend to live like there's no time, like I can't trust God to provide exactly the time I need-- Him who lives outside our time, who is unaffected by my crazed scrambling and hand wringing.

"Don't you trust Me by now?" He asks.

So today instead of saying "There's no time!" I'm going to listen to that quiet echo within reassuring me that, yes, there is. I can trust Him to provide my needs.

There's time.

There's money.

There's answers.

There's resources.

There's words.

I just have to ask, and trust, and wait in expectation.
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Friday, January 27, 2012

The One Where I Talk About Transparency

First, I read this verse

2 Corinthians 12:6b The Message (MSG)

"I don't want anyone imagining me as anything other than the fool you'd encounter if you saw me on the street or heard me talk."

On the same day, I read this quote from an interview with Debbie Macomber (from her new book One Perfect Word)

"Q. One Perfect Word examines your spiritual development and growth from a deeply personal perspective. In many cases you share excerpts from your journals. In the course of writing this book, how did you feel about sharing such intimate details with your readers?

A. I don't have a problem with sharing my humanness. I am flawed. I want my readers to understand that I am genuine and sincere and far from perfect. When I share my struggles, my weaknesses, with my readers, it helps them know my heart. If they know my heart, then they will recognize my faith and hopefully that will show them the path to God and His love."

I think that's the key-- being real, being transparent, talking about the ugliness that is our humanity sometimes. I'm trying to do more of that here on the blog. Showing who I really am, sharing the stuff that might be easiest to just hide away. Even going so far as to include my own personal journal excerpts here like Debbie did in her book. It feels raw and exposed and weird at times. But it also feels good-- to not hide behind these perfect posts, to not dress up my ugliness and put lipstick on the pig, so to speak. To just say, here's who I am and here's what I'm thinking or struggling with or wondering about-- and not always even arrive at a solution. To just say I'm feeling this, in case you're feeling it too.

Based on what Paul and Debbie had to say, none of us are alone. Maybe like me, that brings you a strange sort of comfort.
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The One Where I Find An Old Verse Anew

What's your handicap? Let's face it, we all have one. Or more. Today I was lamenting in my journal about one particular handicap, and the words "My grace is sufficient" came to my mind. So I thought to myself, "Hey, I haven't read that verse in a really long time. Why don't I look it up?" So I did. And then of course I had to write the whole passage in my journal because it was so so so fitting for what I was journaling about.

I love it when that happens. When a verse that's so familiar that you don't even really pay attention to it anymore becomes new and exciting again, speaking to you in a fresh and insightful way as only the Bible can.

Here's the thing. I love the Bible. I love Jesus. I love God. I love that I have the Holy Spirit in me, directing me, speaking to me. I've struggled recently with God's people and some of the things I see around me. But at the end of the day I absolutely don't change on those absolutes in my life. The Word is still my lifeline, my support. Everything may change around me. People may betray me, disappoint me, shock me. I might want to get far far away from their brand of religion. I might feel the sting of rejection, the shame of not measuring up, the pain of just not fitting in. But I always have His comfort as close as that old red leather Bible-- His certainty, His promises-- a personal message that speaks to my heart, cutting through all the junk that vies to crowd it out.

Today the words below were a comfort to me. I needed to be reminded that the very thing I try to rid myself of can be seen as a gift with just a shift in perspective. I needed to remember that God is always, always, always keeping me humble... and dependent. I needed to take those words "My grace is enough, it's all you need" with me throughout the coming day-- replacing the words my flesh wants to say with that truth as many times as it takes.

Read on, and maybe you'll find comfort too.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
The Message (MSG)

7-10Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it's all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The One Where I Share An Old Fave

This was one of my favorite books when I was little. I would spend hours staring at the pictures, making up stories to go with them. In retrospect, this was a sign of things to come-- but of course I didn't know it at the time. Back then it was just fun. With words.

The other day I got out my old copy for my six year old, who also likes to have fun with words. This afternoon I'm going to show her how I used to make up stories in my head to go with the pictures on each page. I've given her a fabric covered blank book and she takes her writing very seriously. Last night we were going to dinner and she wanted to bring her blank book with her in case she had time while we were waiting for our food. I totally get it. It's always nice to take advantage of unexpected time to write.

Thinking about this book, I wonder how many of us had indicators in early childhood of who we would someday be-- this nurse, this teacher, this decorator, this fashionista. This writer. Taking it a step further, I wonder if we pay attention to those indicators in our children's lives of who this child might someday be. I wonder if we sow into it-- providing them with more of what they love, more of what feeds their soul. It's a serious job-- this launching of people. It takes a lot of paying attention, a lot of listening. I started having fun with words as a little girl. I'm so glad the people in my life made sure I was always surrounded by them.
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Monday, January 23, 2012

The One Where I Recap My Weekend

Friday was my 4th child (and second daughter's) birthday. She turned 12. In the car on the way to school that morning I said, "This is your last year before you're officially a teenager."

To which she replied, "Then I wish I could skip it so I could be a teenager now!"

Umm, I think she missed the point. But isn't that how we always are? Wanting to skip over things to get to the next phase instead of savoring where we are, what we have? I'm trying not to be that way-- to stop saying to myself "When I get X done and get to Y, then I'll be happier."

On Friday Curt had to be out of town which was a bummer that he wasn't there for her birthday but I tried to salvage the day by hiring a sitter and going out just the two of us. We had a nice dinner at Panera (at 12 that's fine dining) and then shopped for shoes and a dress for her semi-formal Valentine's dance that's coming up at her school. Can I just say I love Ross? We found a dress AND shoes there for cheap. And she looks adorable. Because it was so inexpensive she also talked me into a package of fuzzy socks and a pair of real Converse low-top tennis shoes (not the Target knock-offs she had before). She was thrilled and that's what birthdays are all about.

Saturday I got brave and took my youngest three out in the rain to get haircuts and run errands. We stopped and had lunch at Burger King. I have to say I haven't been inside a Burger King in years. It hasn't changed. We all had kids meals and I tried to tell myself that it was okay to indulge in the awfulness that is fast food if I only had a kids meal. If I'm wrong, please don't comment and tell me different.

My youngest got her long hair cut into a chin length bob. Now she walks around saying all the time "I love my hair! I look so cute!" Ah, to preserve that self-confidence, that self-esteem. I hate that that's ever going to change. But she has two older sisters so I know it will. Life and lies will conspire to erode that self-confidence and self-esteem. And I'll be there fighting tooth and nail to hold back the tides.

Saturday night Curt got home and we took the birthday girl out for her official birthday dinner. This year we changed up our birthday tradition. I used to make a nice meal of that child's choice for the whole family. But this year I hit upon the fact that it would cost about the same for the two of us to take just that child out to the restaurant of their choice (within reason) and spend some one on one time with that child. So this year we've been doing that and they've all really liked it.

She chose Carrabbas and drank her weight in Shirley Temples. She also tied the stem of the cherry into a knot with her tongue, which is a rite of passage in our family. Afterwards we stopped at Sweet Frog, a local frozen yogurt place, because that's what she asked for and this was her night. Curt and I weren't going to have anything until we walked in and saw that THEY HAD THIN MINT FROZEN YOGURT. We were goners. It was good stuff. When we got home she got her presents-- a curling iron (of her own-- very important in a house with multiple females), a Cake Pop baking set, and a new pair of pajamas. She spent the rest of the night curling her hair and experimenting with looks for her upcoming dance. It hit me that she's officially not a little girl any more. Sniff.

Sunday we didn't go to church because Curt was sick (he forced himself to go out for her dinner since he missed her actual day) and no one wanted to sit beside him in church with his hacking, coughing self. I could've taken the kids to church alone but after being alone with them during the week I just didn't have it in me. He barricaded himself upstairs in our bonus roomwhere his hacking could be heard throughout the house in spite of the closed door. I read, wrote, organized my recipes and piddled. A nice day all in all. Sometimes it's nice to just spend a Sunday that way. I will admit publicly here that I still made a to-do list. On a Sunday. I realize I have issues and I'm working on them.

Today the kids have off from school and the birthday girl has her party with friends. (A word on friend parties-- we only do them every other year. A wise friend gave me that suggestion years ago and I am SO GLAD I started it. I think I would stress right out the door if I had to throw six birthday parties every single year, especially considering that four of our six are in July/August/September.) Anyway, this is her year to have a party. We won a limo package in a raffle at her school so we are using that. The limo is picking her and 9 of her friends up at our house and taking them to a local restaurant for a nice dinner, cake, ice cream and presents. Then the limo will drive them all home. Should be fun. She's excited about it... and that's what counts. And mom? She's excited for all the birthday hoopla to be behind us. See? There I go, doing it again.

If I get my ducks in a row I will post some photos from the party this week. Hope you have a great Monday and a wonderful week!
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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Supper

Baked Chicken and Rice (doesn't that just sound like a Sunday supper? Comfort food at its best.)

3/4 cup of rice
1 pkg Lipton Onion Soup mix
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350. Put rice in ungreased 9X13 baking dish. Place chicken breasts on top of rice. Mix soup and water and pour over top of chicken. Sprinkle with onion soup mix. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour, or until chicken is done.

I serve this with baby peas.
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

The One Where I Ease Up On Myself... Or Try To

Recently I read this interview on a writing blog and the author's answer grabbed me. Read it below and then I'll tell you why:

What time of day do you love best?

I’m a morning person. Not one of those productive morning people who write pages and pages before dawn, or who are out running before it’s fully light. But I love getting up early and taking my dog to the park across the street, just wandering around before the rest of the world gets busy. It’s probably the only time of day where my mind has a chance to remain quiet, and there’s no better way to wake up.

(Quoted from this interview.)

When I read the question "What time of day do you love best?" I thought I knew the way she was going to answer-- the kind of answer she was going to give. I thought that, because she is a published writer she would give the answer I was used to getting-- one that exuded her own capability and key to productivity. No matter whether she was a morning or night person-- or somewhere in the middle-- she would talk about how productive she was at those times. So I read her answer with expectation of the same old response. Perhaps I would learn something to apply in my own life!

But as you read, that wasn't what she said. While she is a morning person, she didn't wax eloquent about how she gets so much done in her best time of day. She didn't talk about her coffee routine, her proclivity towards writing a certain amount by a certain time, her schedule for answering emails or tackling social media. Instead she talked about wandering around in the park with her dog, waking up slowly and letting her creativity awaken as well.

I didn't know that was allowed.

And then I asked myself a question: Why do I need permission to wander? Why are my expectations of myself so high that I set schedules and goals and live by to-do lists and calendars, checkmarks and bullet points and long lines of black ink crossing off words? Why isn't it okay to use my best time of day to do... nothing?

I'm not sure I have any answers just yet. It's more something I'm thinking about. Sometimes I have to remember to be kind to myself. Sometimes I just need permission to wander. It's occurred to me that no one is going to come along and give it to me except me. And God, who is rich in mercy and is not up there keeping a stopwatch, shutting it off in disgust when I don't "make time." Whatever that is. I think that He rather likes this thought pattern of mine-- this idea that it's okay to wander, to wake up slowly, to take time to savor, to use my best time of day to do nothing more than to walk around and marvel at life itself, giving myself time to feel His love and soak it right up. I think He eased up on me a long time ago. He's just been waiting on me to ease up on myself. He wrote me a permission slip to wander with no date scrawled across the top. It's redeemable whenever I choose. I think I'm going to choose now.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The One Where I Give You Recipes To Make Desserts You Shouldn't Eat

I love to make desserts for my family-- and they love it when I do. Yes, it is a test of my willpower. But then I remember those nights when we would finish dinner and my mom would reveal that there was dessert. No more magical words have ever been spoken. "I love you" are three powerful words to a child, but "there is dessert" are a close, close second.

So I try to make dessert at least once a week. And I thought you all might want to see the ones I've flagged as "to be tried." Soon.

Butterfinger Blondies (These not only involve Butterfingers, they also involve an amazing substance called "Butterfinger Buttercream." Oh, the deliciousness!)

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sugar Cookie Bars (These are wonderful because they include the icing that goes on top of a sugar cookie, yet don't involve the standing and cutting out cookies process that makes one crazy.)
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The One Where I Give You A Week's Worth Of Meal Links

I am a big believer in making a menu plan, making a grocery list, getting all the shopping done, and then just knowing what your meals are going to be for the week. The whole "think once and write it down" thing really works in this case. I think once and then I don't have to think about what's for dinner again for the rest of the week! Voila! (Does anyone else get a kick out of when people put "Viola" instead of "Voila"? Anyone? Ok, it's just me...)

Back to the meals. I've been looking at making these meals this week so I thought I'd share them with you, in case you wanted to print them out, or write them down if you're a printer ink cheapskate like me, or just bookmark them on your fancy pants ipad or whatever way would serve you best. The point is to scan through the list of ingredients, write down what you need, then go to the grocery store and buy whatever it is. Once all the groceries are in the house and the meals are all listed, all you have left to do is cook it. (And these recipes are easy so the "just cook it" part should not cause your heart to palpitate.) Your work is nearly done! It really is a good feeling. That organized-perfect-for-just-a-moment-this-house-really-is-my-domain feeling.

Savor it. Because it lasts all of 2.5 seconds.

Ok, so here's the links to five meals. That's a whole week of hot and hearty meals that your family can gather around the table and eat together, just like in the commercials on tv.

Pizza Casserole

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken

Olive Garden Pasta Fagioli Soup (Scroll down to get to the soup recipe. This post also features their salad and breadstick recipes if you are feeling especially ambitious. I almost never am.)

Crock Pot Chicken And Dumplings (Already made this. The reviews were mixed. The ones who loved it, LOVED it. The ones who didn't... aren't fans of dumplings.)

Baked Fried Chicken Breasts (Already made this. My family raved. Raved, I tell you.)

Are you inspired to make a menu plan? I hope so! Let me know how it turns out!
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Monday, January 16, 2012

The One Where I Reveal How I Keep Up With Blogs I Love

I subscribe to them.

I realize this is not rocket science. However, this has been kind of a big deal for me. Long about December (anyone else hearing the Counting Crows song in their head right now? I love that Courteney Cox is in that video. But I digress...)

Will try this again. Long about December, I started thinking about all the blog posts I miss by my fave writers because I don't remember to go check their blogs. And I felt like there had to be a way to fix that. Because mostly in life there is a way to fix something that's bothering you, if you look for it.

And that's when I started subscribing to blogs I love via the feature that sends the post right to your email. And I realize you all have lots of ways that you follow blogs and this is probably old info for most of you. Know this: I am usually hopelessly behind the times. So getting blog posts sent to email probably sounds antiquated to you Google Reader Feeblitz uber cool app techie types. But for me, it was the perfect way to get the latest from the people I want to hear the latest from. And so I went through the novelists I love, the book bloggers I love, the lifestyle bloggers I love, etc. and I signed up for their blogs to come to my emails. And yes I now get more emails than I used to. But there's always the delete button if that particular post doesn't grab me.

And so in this new year I'm feeling just a little more informed, just a little more up to speed with the things I care about. It's not politics. It's not celebs. It's not fashion. (Sorry Shari Braendel). It's not current events. Though it might be for you. For me it's the craft of writing, the pursuit of the perfect meal, the heartbeat of what it means to find faith in the midst of the craziness. These things cast light on the path I am on.

I'm glad I'm not missing these folks' words of wisdom anymore. It's made my life just a little bit richer. And who can't use that?
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Friday, January 13, 2012

The One Where I Give Away A Copy Of Small Space Organizing

I think that no matter how big your house is, your ears probably perked up when you saw the title of the book: Small Space Organizing. It reminds me of the old George Carlin routine about our stuff taking up so much space that we need more space for our stuff.

So, if you have small space issues and you want to be more organized. (New Year's Resolutions, any one?) This book is worth checking out. Here's a video you can watch!

And the good news is, I am giving one away! Just leave a comment here and tell me what small space you'd like to organize for a chance to win.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

The One Where I Quote Therese Walsh

I’m going to sound like a NIKE commercial: Just do it. Write. Because really, what is the option? To stop? If you stop, you’ll feel depressed; it’s what writers do best. If you continue to write, you may still feel uninspired and even depressed, but because you’re working there’s at least a hope for that light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. For writers, hope is everything, isn’t it? We hope we can finish the book. We hope that what we have to say is worth saying, worth hearing. And we hope—hope, hope, hope—to find an audience that appreciates the work. Not writing risks all that hope. I sometimes have to remind myself of that.

(This is from an interview with Therese Walsh, creator of the site Writer Unboxed, and author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy. To see the interview in its entirety, visit Womens Fiction Writers.)
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The One Where I Quote Tamar Cohen

This quote was from this post:

Don't worry about who could possibly be interested in what you have to say. People read looking for some insight on what it is to be human. You’re human, therefore you have as much right to write it as anyone else.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The One Where I Say More About The Blog's New Direction

This quote further talks about what I think I need to do with my blog from here on out:

…here’s the secret I wish someone had told me back when I would get apologetic
for being a “web diarist” or an “online journaller” or a “crazy person who
writes about herself on the internet”: when you’re really liking what you’re
writing, and you’re having fun doing it? That’s probably because you’ve found
your voice. You’ve found your connection with the words and the stories. There’s
an audience out there hungry for someone who knows how to use her voice. Don’t
stifle it because you think you’re supposed to be… what?

(quote came from this post)

I want to like what I'm writing. I want to have fun with it. I want my voice to come through again-- not some voice that sounds like I think I'm supposed to sound because it's what I somehow became convinced I was supposed to sound like. I don't want my blog to be safe, and I am afeared that that's what it's been for quite some time now. Safe. Don't rock the boat. Don't offend anyone. Don't say what I'm really thinking because someone might not buy my books any more. Just write my little banal, milquetoast posts within these banal milquetoast parameters that will contribute continuous content (ah, alliteration I do love you so) without ruffling feathers.

So this is me, stopping all that. I might post three times in one day if three amazing things pop into my brain and I've got that kind of time. And I might go silent for a bit if nothing remarkable presents itself. Or I get real busy. Cause that happens more than I like.

And yes, I do plan to continue these Friends-style titles. Because I like 'em. They make me smile. And I hope they will make you smile and not eventually bore you to tears. Because once I thought that my clever little categories for each day was GENIUS. So clearly, things change.

Oh, and I will make you one more promise. I will try to make each post short. Brief quotes. Links to good stuff. Things like that. I will refrain from pontificating unless it's just absolutely necessary. Because none of us have that kind of time or inclination. We have shorter attention spans now, haven't you heard? But know this, if I post it, it's because it matters to me. And I hope it matters to you.
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Monday, January 09, 2012

The One Where I Admit That I Dislike My Blog

I was seriously about to break up with my blog. Put up a last post and say "It's been real. See ya on the flip side."

You see, me and the blog took a break from each other over Christmas and it turned out that I liked the break. I liked it a little too much. I liked not thinking about whether the blog was getting comments I needed to respond to. Or whether the blog needed updating. Or whether the blog had a broken link. Or whether I'd written this post for this certain day and-- oh my-- would the world stop turning if my Thursday Thought wasn't there by 6am?? Or whether the blog was in some other state of need that ate up my time and left me grumpy and unfulfilled.

But I'd promised the blog that I would come back after the break. And because I always try to keep my word, I came back. And you all read the posts I dutifully put up last week when I came back. You even read my clever idea about going through a book that was very New-Yearsy in subject matter. You might've even bought said book and eagerly anticipated going through it here each week.

Somehow along the way my blog went from passion to production. I wasn't getting on here because I couldn't wait to share something with you (the way I started). I was getting on here because I said I would. And because I'm a writer and we writers are expected to develop "an audience." But somehow, in trying to develop my audience like a good little writer, I started boring myself-- and probably you guys-- to tears.

But not any more. I hereby declare there will be no more themed days. There will be no more perfunctory posts. (I do love me some alliteration.) There will be no more me writing what I think you want to hear or what I think someone "out there" expects me to say. Instead I'm taking back my blog and making it my own-- less expectation and more passion.

So, my apologies but I won't be discussing that book here after all. I changed my mind because I'm a woman and that's what we do. (Although I do love that book so, truly, you should read it and be inspired.) I just don't love the idea of robotically showing up week after week to discuss it, making something I love become something I'm working on. Again with the boredom.

Instead I will be talking about my life and my friends and what I think about food and writing and reading great books and how my faith impacts all the different little tributaries of my life. And I'll be talking about marriage and kids and family and how most of the time I feel like a great big failure at all of it. But I try. I get up every day and I try. Mostly I just bake them stuff because that seems to make them happy. So I'll share the recipes and you can try the same tactic.

I'll be talking about all of that. And probably more. But I can't promise it'll be Monday through Friday. And I can't promise you'll always like what I have to say, or the way I say it. But instead of this manufactured, mass-produced product, what I share here will be one-of-a-kind: handmade, with love.

Those are the things I like best anyway. I hope you do, too.
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Friday, January 06, 2012

Fiction Friday: Theme

This post is from a newsletter article by Holly Lisle, who made me think about theme in a different way by challenging me to make it personal-- what themes have I dealt with in my own life that can be reflected in my fiction? Read on...

It goes without saying that every story is about something, doesn't

Well, you'd think so, but in fact, NOTHING goes without saying.
All information is new to someone once, and if you haven't heard
this before (and maybe even if you have but you sort of forgot why
it mattered), let me say this now:

In order to matter to your reader, your story has to be ABOUT
something that matters to your reader...

...Want your readers to love your characters and your stories and come
back for more, not because you said a whole lot of nothing in a
very pretty fashion, but because you hooked them and showed them
someone they loved in a situation that mattered doing things they
cared about?...

...You must tell a story that shows people and
life not as the are, but as they could be, and as they should be.

To do that, first YOU have to care.

And for you to care, you have to be telling a story about something
that matters to you.

What matters to you?

That justice can overcome corruption?

That love is the most powerful force in the world?

That best friends can survive any hardship together?

That fear is what turns men into animals?

Sit down right now, give a good hard look at your own life, and
establish a few themes that sum you up. That make sense of the
life you have lived to this point.

Consider whether those themes are what you want to hold up as
examples, or whether they're what you want to show a hero

With a theme as your anchor, you can then plot a story that will
matter to you when you write it...and that will matter to your reader
when he reads it.
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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Thursday Thought: Unsent Letters

When you get mad what do you do? Call your mom and vent to her? Wait til your husband gets home and tell him all about it? Tell your best friend? Hash it out internally, practicing all your best put-downs as you imagine the conversation you would have with the offending party?
One thing I've recently hit on is writing the person an email you never intend to send. Open up your compose screen and start writing. Say it all. Get it out. Tell them just what you think, how you feel, and your version of what happened. Vent.

But for goodness sake, do not put their name in the recipient's box. Don't want that puppy getting accidentally sent out, do you? Of course not. The letter, you see, isn't really meant for them. It's meant for you. Your feelings are valid. Your emotions need to work their way out. Repressing and ignoring them isn't going to help. This gives you a safe place to work through it all. You can be as ugly as you need to be, this isn't the time for censoring yourself. You can even cuss if you want to.
After you've written your letter, hit "save draft" and let it stew in your inbox for a few days. Then go back and read it, and be glad that you didn't send that email. Because in a few days you've calmed down. You've had a chance to maybe see the other side of things. You've processed it and a cooler head has prevailed. Most likely you'll just delete the dumb thing, shaking your head at what a difference a day or two can make.

We all get angry, we all get wronged, we all struggle to put things in perspective at times. And when we do it's nice to have something to do with all those feelings. Next time you're struggling with something, try the unsent letter option. You might find it gives you a place to work out all that hurt, without hurting anyone else.

The holidays are notoriously a time for hurt feelings. The increased exposure to family, the party invites and spending stress, the busy schedules can all bring things to the surface. If you've got a bone to pick with someone, try this method. It just might help you not say something you ordinarily would. It might just save a relationship and your reputation.

Say it. Just don't say it directly to them.
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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Psalms For Moms

Psalm 25:9, "He gives the rejects His hand, and leads them step by step." (MSG)

Over Christmas several of my friends and I joked that we belonged on the Island of Misfit Toys. Ever feel like a misfit? I do. All the time. I don't fit with the uber-Christians and I don't fit with the heathens. I don't fit with the fashionistas and I don't fit with the slobs. I don't fit with the secular writers and I don't fit with the Christian writers. Whenever I take one of those personality tests, I never fit in one particular category. I took one online and discovered I scored in a category that is 1% of the population. The test said it's the most rare personality type. Consequently, I've never been able to proudly proclaim "I'm a Golden Retriever! I'm an Otter! I'm a Phlegmatic! I'm a Choleric!" Instead I've spent a lot of time trying to figure myself out. The lines, they do keep blurring.

And yet, I'm okay with that. I've embraced my one-size-does-not-fit-all life. I like my uniqueness. Sure it would be simpler to pick out a label and proudly wear it affixed to my chest so that everyone knows what they're dealing with. But that's not going to happen. So that's why I picked out today's verse. It spoke to me, as a misfit. The fact that God made me just as I am. That He takes delight in my misfit ways. Even more, He gives me His hand and leads me step-by-step.

Perhaps you needed to remember that He's there for you today. You might feel rejected-- like you don't fit. But you fit: your small hand in His large, capable one, picking your way out along the jagged, rocky path of life. Maybe you've got a child who needs to hear this verse today-- a reminder that when we feel like rejects, He is there with His hand outstretched. There is a place for misfits, and that place is by His side, sticking close, letting Him show us the way.
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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Two For Tuesday (A Fail and a Win)

This year I did one thing right when it came to my reading habit. I started keeping a reading log for the first time ever. This log turned out to be quite informative and fun-- I'd recommend it to anyone who reads a lot and desires to remember all that you've read. Through writing down the books I read I was able to 1) see how many books I read per month on average (5) and 2) remember what I read, and what I thought of each book. In years' past I couldn't tell you any of that info-- it was all a blur. As I flipped back through my log, I was like "Oh, I forgot I read that!" And I was able to see what I thought of the books, as I wrote my own personal review for each book after I read it. I don't intend to publish any of that info here-- it was just something I did for myself, for my own recordkeeping.

So that was my win.

What was my fail?

At the end of 2010 I made a TBR list (To Be Read) for 2011, which I will admit was a bit grandiose. I was dreaming big, clearly. One of the goals I most looked forward to was reading all of Anne Tyler's works over the course of 2011, starting with Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant.

I am confessing here, publicly, that I read NONE of Anne Tyler's novels. Not one. Nada.

Am I including her stuff on my TBR list for 2012? No. Not because I don't still want to read them, but because I want to leave room on my TBR list this year for those serendipitous books out there that I don't know I want to read yet. I want my list to have room to grow. Right now that list is at a doable 25 books (I read around 60 last year.) That gives me much room to grow and change-- because that's what a new year is all about, setting goals, while leaving room for an uncertain future full of growth and change, and the grace to do both.

Speaking of reading, remember you're invited to join me in going through Write It Down, Make It Happen... We'll discuss the first chapter on Thursday, January 12th.
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Monday, January 02, 2012

And... We're Back

Hope your holidays were happy! We were busy and crazed and sick and cooped up and... so, so happy. I loved the break that we were all able to have. And yet, there is something equally nice about getting back to routine and a sense of normality. (I say a sense because really there is no normal.)

I briefly announced over Christmas that I'm going to be going through the book Write It Down, Make It Happen as we begin the new year, and I invite you to join me. This book is about something I very much believe-- that setting goals in many areas of your life, and writing them down, is paramount to accomplishing them. I have seen this over and over in my life.

So get yourself a copy and join me in going through it. I will be posting about the book on Thursdays, going through a chapter a week. A perfect thing to do in this new year! This coming Thursday I will just write an introduction to what we're doing and then we'll start with the introduction (because I believe in reading introductions) on January 12th, hopefully giving those of you who want to order it (or download it on your new e-reader!) time to get it and read that first chapter.

I hope that you'll decide to go through the book with me and we will write down our goals-- and see them happen-- together!
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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Banana Bars

Ever have rapidly darkening bananas and not know what to do with them other than make yet another loaf of banana bread? Well, here's another, tasty, solution. My family loved these! One of my sons even said he wants these for his next birthday instead of cake!

Banana Bars

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) butter or margarine, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup mashed ripe banana (2 bananas)

1 egg

2 cups chocolate chips

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in bananas and eggs. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread into greased 15X10 inch jelly roll pan.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into bars. Makes 6 dozen.
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